Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, with the assistance of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, completed a five-day exercise focused on subterranean operations at a remote underground facility in Washington May 14 to 18.
The subterranean operational environment, which dates as far back as the Civil War within American history, continues to be one that is complex and can create significant challenges for today’s Soldier.
Beginning with classroom lessons, equipment familiarization, and hands-on instructions by members of the Subterranean Operations Mobile Training Teams, the Lancers were ready to use what they learned to fight in an actual subterranean environment.
With the size and scope of the facility, a typical squad or platoon element cannot move and clear a building that immense effectively or efficiently as they would a house or building.
“The battlefield is getting more complex every day,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Graves, 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. “Training our Soldiers for this type of environment and giving them the right types of tools is what we need to fight and win America’s battles.”
Given population trends, future adversaries are expected to operate in dense urban terrain; areas of dense population and closely packed infrastructures, to include subterranean features.
These areas may be a part of future battlefields, where U.S. forces could expect to encounter an enemy seeking to exploit underground utility structures and sewers to maneuver.
Armed with combat experience in dense population areas in Iraq and Syria, as well as the caves of Afghanistan, the mobile training teams instructors shared their collective knowledge with the Lancers to assist them in their training.
Company-sized elements, equipped with weapons, ballistic shields, night vision goggles and breaching tools moved around the underground facility relying on communication, training and initiative.
Combat engineers and infantry Soldiers from across the brigade trained together as a single unit, to breach the facility and move down, floor-by-floor, clearing vast corridors and large rooms.
Once they were complete and met the objective, they conducted a quick after action review and the instructors had the units run the scenario again and again.
“Overall, the emphasis on fundamentals proved to be the biggest learning point,” said Capt. Brenton Clark, commander, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. “With instructors from some of the most lethal units the Army offers, the refinement of fundamentals proved to be the main theme.”
Future conflicts are unknown and constantly changing. The brigade’s Soldiers won’t always be perfect, but their goal is always to be better than the enemy.
“The most challenging part of the training was operating in such austere conditions,” Clark said. “Literally one’s presence made the enclosed atmosphere that more untenable. While infantrymen are quite accustomed to persevering through unfavorable weather, the subterranean environment presented an atmosphere where air, lighting conditions and munitions all had to be factored into the decision making process for the operation.”
The future operating environment continues to change in four fundamental and interrelated ways: adversaries will challenge U.S. forces in all domains; the battlespace will be more lethal; the operating environment will be more complex; deterring aggressive acts is becoming more challenging.